Is it Possible to be Prepared Enough?

Hi everyone. It’s been a while since I posted last, but as I approach what will be my year to apply to med school the gremlins of doubt are starting to creep in and I was hoping for some outside perspective. Here’s where I came from and what I’m worried about:

I transferred schools 3 times before graduating cum laude with a B.A. in English from University of Michigan back in 2003. From that point until now I gained work experience at a veterinary clinic, in hospital admissions, as the Customer Service Supervisor for a reading curriculum created and run by the of the creator of the American Girl books, as a plasmapheresis tech, and as the acting M.A. at a podiatrist’s office. During that time I flirted with dietetics courses prior to starting my pre-med journey. I have 2 young boys and was working full-time up until I started to study for the MCAT.

I am taking 2 courses this semester, will apply in to med school this summer, and will have 4 courses remaining before completing my DYI post-bacc (I spoke with my school of choice and they are ok with my not having those courses completed prior to applying). In the past 3 years I have completed Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Intro to O Chem, O Chem I, and Gen Physics I mostly at my local community college. I took some biology and chemistry courses more than 10 years ago. I sat for the MCAT last September and received a 504. This semester I’m taking Gen Chem i and II, which means that I will take Physics II, O Chem II, Intro to Biochem, and possibly Biochem I after applying. I have received As in all of my recent courses with the exception of an F I got in O Chem I (from an online course), which I improved to a B+ after taking it again in person.

I have been shadowing physicians around town, volunteering at the hospital, at the Salvation Army, and at events around town. Unfortunately, my hospital volunteer experience doesn’t allow for direct patient contact (I’m in the surgical family waiting room), but I hope to soon rectify that.

My issue is that I feel wildly academically unprepared to be applying this year. However, all of the mentors I have spoke to have told me that applying this year is a good idea. From your objective point of view, do my academic ducks seem to be in a row to apply this summer? I am tormented by being a prepper who never feels prepared enough, so I’m not sure if my fears are based in reality or not. I am learning that being a non-trad isn’t a weakness, but I worry that there is some big thing that I’m missing that may make me feel more prepared.

Thank you so much for your time and opinions!

Don’t think of being prepared as being fully knowledgeable of all of the subject matter that you’re going to learn in school. The most important thing to know about yourself is how you learn best and whether you are able to handle stress (of school, of life, etc). Med school is still school, you’re expected to learn and grow. It does help to have a least some background in the subject matter, but you don’t necessarily have to.

While I was waiting to start, I picked up an immunology book to get a quick primer in an area that I knew nothing about. Outside of the super basic stuff that we learned in the first 5 minutes of the first immunology lecture, I didn’t retain or understand anything to the point we’re supposed to know now. That’s not a knock on trying to prepare, it’s more to stress that “medical” isn’t the same information or depth that you would learn in a traditional non “medical” version. In some cases, we’re expected to know more, but in many cases we’re just expected to understand the theory behind how stuff works, not necessarily every step of specific mechanisms that make stuff happen.

There’s no real way to be completely prepared for the onslaught that is med school. Honestly though, it’s not nearly as bad as I had built up in my head…

Thanks, Kennymac. Because the med school application process is so competitive, I am more worried about my ability to be a strong candidate than I am about what life will be like once I start med school. It seems like a backward perspective, but I am used to taking classes (albeit not med schools classes), working full-time, and taking care of my family; I am accustomed to those constructs where the competition seems as if it’s really only with myself. However, I’ve been out of the world of candidate competition (both academically and professionally) for a while. I am going to continue on strong, though. I think these issues are most likely personal and not academic ones.

How far are you in med school? It’s encouraging to hear that it’s not as bad as you anticipated. I think you may be the only person who I’ve heard say that!

I’m an M1, so 1/8 of the way through. Take it with a grain of salt, but Anatomy was supposed to be the worst of it and that’s over now…

I was worried about competing with the younger pool of applicants as well. All I did was work. No volunteering, solid academic record but very little recency, absolutely no medical background, etc. It’s apples and oranges. Everyone else will have done stuff that you haven’t done, and you’ve definitely done/dealt with things that the younger folks probably haven’t even thought of. I tried to not think of it as necessarily competing against everyone else. If it was solely based on MCAT score, then sure, it’d be direct competition. GPA only? Same thing. But it’s not, and you can’t know exactly what “formula” every individual on every school’s admissions committee will be using when judging you on paper. All you can do is present yourself in the best possible manner, and no one else but you will have any influence on that. The straight-A student at Harvard will be lacking something that makes you shine, and vice versa. You didn’t do anything to that kid to change the adcom’s impression of him, and he didn’t do anything to you. Granted, that’s only one way to view the admissions fun, but it helped me maintain my sanity.

It really is a super painful, brain-crushing process that is made even more difficult by the length of time and lack of transparency of the whole thing. You’ll get through it, one way or another.

Solid advice Kennymac. It was refreshing reading this post because I have been recently getting wrapped up and worried again about trying to find the perfect recipe for med school admission.

I love that, DavidA: trying to find the perfect recipe for med school admission. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that is what I’ve been trying to cook up. We are all in it together, but since applicants are initially evaluated on numbers like MCAT scores and GPAs, I had lost sight of the fact that this process is about collaboration and support among fellow applicants and not competition against them.

As Rich always says, there is a 100% way to ensure you do not get into medical school and that is to not apply.

the whole process is a crap shoot as there are many factors involved in choosing the class. That being said, sometimes you just need to pull the trigger and see what happens. Undergraduate work does not prepare you per se for medical school. It is a completely different animal.

Thanks, gabelerman. Nothing will keep me from applying, I’m just trying to modulate the amount of anxiety I bring into the process. Reading everyone’s responses and OPMs responses are helping lower that level, at least a little bit :wink:

Each school is looking for the right ‘mix’ for their classes. They are looking for a diversity of experiences, so don’t feel that since med school applicant A has x hours shadowing a GI specialist somehow that’s worse then your Y hours working in a soup kitchen. And a lot of that has to do with the schools mission, but again it’s not the end all be all in application decisions. You’re going to hear the word ‘fit’ in the applications process a lot. So be you, promote your best self. You’re going to do better at a school that shares the same values as you, and those schools will find you as long as you put yourself out there. My favorite saying has become “fortune favors the bold.” Be bold. Good luck to you on your journey!